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Rano Mamadrizobekova: A Tajik Student Finds Her Way to TC

A 24-year-old young lady, Rano Mamadrizobekova, is the first master's student in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies from the former Soviet Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan.

Mamadrizobekova is at TC on her own personal mission to learn about educational systems in the U.S. and attempt to use that information to promote exchange programs between Americans and Tajiks.

Mamadrizobekova comes from a land in turmoil. This multi-lingual Central Asian nation of five million, borders Afghanistan and Pakistan in the south, Uzbekistan in the east, Kyrgyzstan in the north, and China in the east, and is still reeling from a six-year civil war. International correspondents say Tajikistan remains volatile despite a peace agreement signed last year, which apparently ended the civil war.

During this period of upheaval, religion-whether in the form of Sunni or Shi'ite Islam-has entered the politics of Tajikistan, most notably from the opposition groups who fought against the government during the civil war.

Mamadrizobekova was born in the capital city, Dushanbe, which is literally translated as "Monday" in Tajik, a language with Iranian roots. While she spent her early childhood in the Ukraine, her mother's birthplace, she went to elementary and secondary school in Kulob, which is approximately 200 kilometers south of Dushanbe.

In 1991, Mamadrizobekova carried on the family tradition and entered the Teachers Training Institute, located in the capital, where she was seeking the equivalent of bachelor's degree in the teaching of English and German.

With the breakdown of the old order, educational institutions across the country were closed and Mamadrizobekova was unable to continue her studies in Dushanbe. Once again, she returned to the Ukraine, where she received her "diploma."

On returning to Dushanbe, Mamadrizobekova taught English and basic computer skills but started to look at the local educational system and wanted to take part in changing its "Soviet-style" approach. She decided to apply to Teachers College through the recommendation of the Open Society Institute, which is funded by the Soros Foundation. "The Open Society," according to Mamadrizobekova, "sponsors a wide variety of educational programs that allow students from the former Soviet Union to come to the United States to get either a master's or Ph.D." As one of only 50 students who were accepted to American institutions of higher learning through the Open Society Institute, Mamadroizobekova is grateful for the opportunity to be at TC.

"We don't have enough well trained teachers. Their salaries are low. There's a serious shortage of books. Many schools don't even have heating. The entire issue of school finance is overwhelming. We have ethnic and linguistic issues to resolve. And we need to educate citizens of Tajikistan rather than continue with a curriculum that is Soviet based."

Poignantly, the well spoken woman adds, "Everything that concerns education is different here. I mean, the only similarity is that we have teachers and you have teachers. All the rest is different."

"Our system requires tremendous change. So, what I'm doing at TC is to learn as much as possible about education in America and to see what can be applicable to Tajikistan. But we just can't transfer what you have in America to Tajikistan," says Mamadrozobekova.

In her first weeks at TC, Mamadrizobekova points out some of the changes she has experienced in her classrooms that differ with those back home. "I can choose my courses of study but most of all I'm impressed by the way classes are taught. There's more class discussion and less lecturing and here you are given much more freedom, but it means you have to take much more responsibility."

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